Chemical Engineering Challenges and Investment Opportunities in Sustainable Energy



The chemical and energy industries are transforming as they adjust to the new era of high-priced petroleum and severe global warming. As a result of the transformation, engineering challenges and investment opportunities abound. Rapid evolution and fast growth are expected in cathode and anode materials as well as polymeric electrolytes for vehicular batteries and in high-performance polymer–ceramic composites for wind turbines, fuel-efficient aircraft, and lighter and safer cars. Unique process-engineering opportunities exist in sand-oil, coal, and possibly also shale liquefaction to produce transportation fuel; and also in genetic engineering of photosynthesizing plants and other organisms for their processing into high-performance biodegradable polymers and high-value-added environmentally friendly chemicals. Also, research on the feasibility of mitigation of global warming through enhancement of CO2 uptake by the southern oceans by fertilization with trace amounts of iron is progressing. Because chemical engineers are uniquely well trained in mathematical modeling of mass transport, flow, and mixing, and also in cost analysis, they are likely to join the oceanographers and marine biologists in this important endeavor.